Neal Brown Updates the Football Program and Sees Room for Optimism
West Virginia head coach Neal Brown met with the media via video teleconference Thursday morning. Brown gave some insight on how the football program is operating during these unprecedented times.
“Our first and main priority right now is the health and well-being of our players and staff," said Brown. “We are moving forward, but also in full awareness that the health and well-being not only of each individual but our players as well.”
The Mountaineers only got in two spring practices before, well, the entire country shut down due to COVID-19 and met, as a team, Friday morning for day three. Instead of starting the first spring practice with pads, Brown and the staff had to announce that practice was cancelled.
This was the weekend before spring break. West Virginia had already had it in the schedule to have the week off.
"Outside of text and some things like that, we kind of left them alone. Started trying to get back on schedule on Monday," said Brown.
The University was scheduled to open March 23rd, but, like the rest of the country, classes will resume online March 29.
Nonetheless, the staff has been staying in contact with the players and if you haven’t become familiar with the Zoom app as of late, it’s a way to have face-to-face conversations through video.
“Basically, what we’re doing is we’re doing some kind of check-in via this tool Zoom. We’ve had two team meetings and they either get together on a Zoom meeting with their accountability teams and accountability coaches or with their position groups,” said Brown.
"We’re not allowed to do football – we’re not doing any football right now. It’s really just kind of check-ins every day. Really encouraging our guys to get into a routine. I think that’s really important. That’s really how we’re really operating as a football team, is everybody that stays in contact with our players whether it’s their position coach, Mike Joseph, and his strength and condition staff, Farrell Franklin and our nutrition staff, Brittney O’Dell academically, Will Johnson (Director of player and alumni relations). We have multiple touchpoints for each player on our team. We’re doing most of those by this tool Zoom. Also utilizing Facetime. Trying to get eyeballs on everybody within our organization on a daily basis."
From a conditioning standpoint, the lockdown might undo some of the strength and conditioning coach Mike Joseph and his staff did during the winter workouts. However, despite limitations, Joseph put together something for his players so they can stay in shape.
“We can’t really have any monitored football activity,” continued Brown. “What he’s able to do is offer workouts, we just can’t track whether those workouts are being accomplished or whatever. So, he’s basically got three different types of workouts that he’s sending out.”
“One of those workouts is if guys have access to a normal weight room. A normal kind of setup. The second is for guys that have limited access. So, maybe they have a weight bench or a squat rack or something like that at their house. They have very limited access. The third type is for those who have nothing and it’s all bodyweight.”
“His focus is on conditioning right now more than anything," he added. "We know there’s going to be some strength drop off, but he’s more concerned about the running aspect of it. But right now, we don’t have the ability to track it. So, we’re operating on really giving them some things can potentially do – we’re hoping. It's our hope that they’re doing something, but we can’t mandate it and we can’t necessarily track them right now.”
Neal Brown sees this as an opportunity to grow as a team. Of course, he would have preferred to have his allotted practice times to develop on the field but coming together as a team and holding each other accountable has its benefits.
"What I’ve been telling them is, a tremendous challenges presents tremendous opportunities and no one controls these circumstances – we control how we respond,” said Brown.
“I think, good things come, not that anything good has come from this virus, but our responses can be good. And one thing we push the accelerator on, I think as you go a through the process of kind of building a program, and that’s what we’re doing right now, is you want to eventually go to a coach led team to a player led team and we’re having probably doing that quicker than we imagined and maybe we were ready. And this break here is going to prove if we were ready or not because we’re having to be a player led team in a lot of different led manners."
“I’m excited to see how the leadership reacts to this. I want to see how accountable we are to each other.”